Last updated

Xela 2013.jpg
Bandera de Quetzaltenango.svg
Escudo de la Municipalidad de Quetzaltenango.png
Guatemala location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location in Guatemala
Coordinates: 14°50′40″N91°30′05″W / 14.84444°N 91.50139°W / 14.84444; -91.50139
CountryFlag of Guatemala.svg  Guatemala
Department Vlagquetzaltenango.gif Quetzaltenango
FoundationMay 7, 1524
   Mayor Luis Grijalva Minera, Encuentro por Guatemala
  City120 km2 (50 sq mi)
2,330 m (7,640 ft)
Demonym(s) Quetzalteca/o
Time zone UTC-6 (Central America)
Climate Oceanic climate: subtropical highland variety (Cwb)

Quetzaltenango (Spanish pronunciation:  [ketsalteˈnaŋgo] , also known by its Maya name, Xelajú [ʃelaˈχu] or Xela[ˈʃela], is the second largest city of Guatemala. [1] It is both the capital of Quetzaltenango Department and the municipal seat of Quetzaltenango municipality.

Guatemala Republic in Central America

Guatemala, officially the Republic of Guatemala, is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvador to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south. With an estimated population of around 16.6 million, it is the most populated country in Central America. Guatemala is a representative democracy; its capital and largest city is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City.

Quetzaltenango Department Department in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Quetzaltenango is a department in the western highlands of Guatemala. The capital is the city of Quetzaltenango, the second largest city in Guatemala. The department is divided up into 24 municipalities. The inhabitants include Spanish-speaking Ladinos and the K'iche' and Mam Maya groups, both with their own Maya language. The department consists of mountainous terrain, with its principal river being the Samalá River. the department is seismically active, suffering from both earthquakes and volcanic activity.

Municipality An administrative division having corporate status and usually some powers of self-government or jurisdiction

A municipality is usually a single administrative division having corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as granted by national and regional laws to which it is subordinate. It is to be distinguished (usually) from the county, which may encompass rural territory or numerous small communities such as towns, villages and hamlets.


It has an estimated population of 224,703. The population is about 61% indigenous or Amerindian, 34% Mestizo or ladino and 5% white Latin American. Quetzaltenango is located in a mountain valley at an elevation of 2,330 meters (7,640 feet) above sea level at its lowest part. It may reach above 2,400 meters within the city.

Population All the organisms of a given species that live in the specified region

In biology, a population is all the organisms of the same group or species, which live in a particular geographical area, and have the capability of interbreeding. The area of a sexual population is the area where inter-breeding is potentially possible between any pair within the area, and where the probability of interbreeding is greater than the probability of cross-breeding with individuals from other areas.

Mestizo race

Mestizo is a term traditionally used in Spain, Latin America and the Philippines that originally referred to a person of combined European and Indigenous American descent, regardless of where the person was born. The term was used as an ethnic/racial category in the casta system that was in use during the Spanish Empire's control of its American and Asian colonies. Nowadays though, particularly in Spanish America, mestizo has become more of a cultural term, with culturally mainstream Latin Americans regarded or termed as mestizos regardless of their actual ancestry and with the term Indian being reserved exclusively for people who have maintained a separate indigenous ethnic identity, language, tribal affiliation, etc. Consequently, today, the vast majority of Spanish-speaking Latin Americans are regarded as mestizos.

The Ladino people are a mix of mestizo or hispanicized peoples in Latin America, principally in Central America, as well as the Philippines. The demonym Ladino is a Spanish word that derives from Latino. Ladino is an exonym invented of the colonial era to refer to those Spanish-speakers who were not colonial elites of Peninsulares, Criollos, or indigenous peoples.

The Municipality of Quetzaltenango consists of an area of 127 square kilometres (49 sq mi). Municipalities abutting the municipality of Quetzaltenango include Salcajá, Cantel, Almolonga, Zunil, El Palmar, Concepción Chiquirichapa, San Mateo, La Esperanza, and Olintepeque in Quetzaltenango department and San Andrés Xecul in Totonicapán department.

Salcajá Municipality in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Salcajá is a municipality in Quetzaltenango department of Guatemala.

Cantel, Guatemala Municipality and town in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Cantel is a small municipality in the Quetzaltenango Department in Guatemala. It is located east of the city of Quetzaltenango and has an area of 22 km2. The village of Cantel is situated at 2,370 m altitude. The population is 32,221 people.

Almolonga, Quetzaltenango municipality in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Almolonga is a municipality in the Quetzaltenango Department of Guatemala, located on the road between Ciudad de Quetzaltenango and Zunil. Its populace is primarily indigenous, speaking the K'iche' (Quiché) language


Quetzaltenango central park c. 1894 Quetzaltenango Parque Central c.1894.png
Quetzaltenango central park c. 1894

In Pre-Columbian times Quetzaltenango was a city of the Mam Maya people called Xelajú, although by the time of the Spanish Conquest it had become part of the K'iche' Kingdom of Q'umarkaj. The name may be derived from xe laju' noj meaning "under ten mountains". The city was said to have already been over 300 years old when the Spanish first arrived. With the help of his allies, Conquistador Pedro de Alvarado defeated and killed the Maya ruler Tecún Umán here. When Alvarado conquered the city for Spain in the 1520s, he called it by the Nahuatl name used by his Central Mexican Indian allies, "Quetzaltenango", generally considered to mean "the place of the quetzal bird." Quetzaltenango became the city's official name in colonial times. However, many people (especially the indigenous population) continue to call the city "Xelajú" or more commonly "Xela" for short, and some proudly, but unofficially, consider it the "capital of the Mayas".[ citation needed ]

Mam is a Mayan language spoken by about half a million Mam people in the Guatemalan departments of Quetzaltenango, Huehuetenango, San Marcos, and Retalhuleu, and the Mexican state of Chiapas. Thousands more make up a Mam diaspora throughout the United States and Mexico, with notable populations living in Oakland, California and Washington, D.C.

Indian auxiliaries Indigenous peoples of the Americas who aligned with the Spanish conquest

Indian auxiliaries or indios auxiliares is the term used in old Spanish chronicles and historical texts for the indigenous peoples who were integrated into the armies of the Spanish conquistadors with the purpose of supporting their advance and combat operations during the Conquest of America. They acted as guides, translators, or porters and in this role were also called yanakuna, particularly within the old Inca Empire and Chile. The term was also used for formations composed of indigenous warriors or Indios amigos, which they used for reconnaissance, combat, and as reserve in battle. The auxiliary Indians remained in use after the conquest, during some revolts, in border zones and permanent military areas, as in Chile in the Arauco War.

<i>Conquistador</i> soldiers, explorers, and adventurers primarly at the service of the Spanish Empire, and also to the Portuguese Empire

Conquistador is a term widely used to refer to the knights, soldiers and explorers of the Spanish Empire and the Portuguese Empire. During the Age of Discovery, conquistadors sailed beyond Europe to the Americas, Oceania, Africa, and Asia, conquering territory and opening trade routes. They colonized much of the world for Spain and Portugal in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.

From 1838 to 1840 Quetzaltenango was capital of the state of Los Altos, one of the states or provinces of the Federal Republic of Central America. As the union broke up, the army of Guatemala under Rafael Carrera conquered Quetzaltenango making it again part of Guatemala.[ citation needed ] In 1850, the city had a population of approximately 20,000. [2]

Federal Republic of Central America former nation in Central America

The Federal Republic of Central America, also called the United Provinces of Central America in its first year of creation, was a sovereign state in Central America consisting of the territories of the former Captaincy General of Guatemala of New Spain. It existed from 1823 to 1841, and was a republican democracy.

Rafael Carrera President of Guatemala

José Rafael Carrera Turcios was the president of Guatemala from 1844 to 1848 and from 1851 until his death in 1865, after being appointed President for Life in 1854. During his military career and presidency, new nations in Central America were facing numerous problems: William Walker's invasions, liberal attempts to overthrow the Catholic Church and aristocrats' power, the Civil War in the United States, Mayan uprising in the east, Belize boundary dispute with England, and the wars in Mexico under Benito Juarez. This led to a rise of caudillos, a term that refers to charismatic populist leaders among the indigenous people. Many regional and national caudillos were interested in power for their own gain. Carrera was an exception as he genuinely took the interests of Guatemala's Indian majority to heart.

During the 19th century, coffee was introduced as a major crop in the area. As a result, the economy of Xela prospered. Much fine Belle Époque architecture can still be found in the city.

Coffee Brewed beverage

Coffee is a brewed drink prepared from roasted coffee beans, the seeds of berries from certain Coffea species. The genus Coffea is native to tropical Africa and Madagascar, the Comoros, Mauritius, and Réunion in the Indian Ocean. Coffee plants are now cultivated in over 70 countries, primarily in the equatorial regions of the Americas, Southeast Asia, Indian subcontinent, and Africa. The two most commonly grown are C. arabica and C. robusta. Once ripe, coffee berries are picked, processed, and dried. Dried coffee seeds are roasted to varying degrees, depending on the desired flavor. Roasted beans are ground and then brewed with near-boiling water to produce the beverage known as coffee.

<i>Belle Époque</i> period in European history, 1871 to 1914

The Belle Époque or La Belle Époque was a period of Western history. It is conventionally dated from the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Occurring during the era of the French Third Republic, it was a period characterized by optimism, regional peace, economic prosperity, an apex of colonial empires, and technological, scientific, and cultural innovations. In the climate of the period, especially in Paris, the arts flourished. Many masterpieces of literature, music, theater, and visual art gained recognition. The Belle Époque was named in retrospect when it began to be considered a "Golden Age" in contrast to the horrors of World War I. The Belle Epoque was a period in which, according to historian R.R. Palmer, "European civilization achieved its greatest power in global politics, and also exerted its maximum influence upon peoples outside Europe."

On October 24, 1902, at 5:00 pm, the Santa María Volcano erupted. Rocks and ash fell on Quetzaltenango at 6:00 pm, only one hour after the eruption.

In the 1920s, a young Gypsy woman named Vanushka Cardena Barajas died and was buried in the Xela city cemetery. An active legend has developed around her tomb that says those who bring flowers or write a request on her tomb will be reunited with their former romantic partners. The Guatemalan songwriter Alvaro Aguilar wrote a song based on this legend.

Skyline of Quetzaltenango from the surrounding mountainside in 2009. Quetzaltenango skyline 2009.JPG
Skyline of Quetzaltenango from the surrounding mountainside in 2009.

In 1930 the only electric railway in Guatemala, the Ferrocarril de Los Altos , was inaugurated. It was built by AEG and Krupp, and had 14 train cars. The track connected Quetzaltenango with San Felipe, Retalhuleu. It was soon destroyed by mudslides and finally demolished in 1933. The people of Quetzaltenango are still very proud of the railway. A railway museum has been established in the city centre.

Since the late 1990s Quetzaltenango has been having an economic boom, which makes it the city with the second-highest contribution to Guatemalan economy. With its first high-rise buildings being built, it is expected by 2015 to have a more prominent skyline, with buildings up to 15 floors tall.

In 2008, the Central American Congress PARLACEN stated that every September 15, Quetzaltenango will be Central America's capital of culture. [3]

Quetzaltenango was supposed to host the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games, but dropped out due to lack of funding for the event. [4]

Satellite photo showing Quetzaltenango and Santa Maria volcano Quetzaltenango santa maria volcano.jpg
Satellite photo showing Quetzaltenango and Santa Maria volcano


Farming highlands Quetzaltenango farm highlands 2009.jpg
Farming highlands

According to Köppen climate classification, Quetzaltenango features a subtropical highland climate (Cwb). In general, the climate in Quetzaltenango can go from mild to chilly, with occasional sporadic warm episodes. The daily high is usually reached around noon. From then on, temperatures decrease exceptionally fast. The city is quite dry, except during the rainy season. Quetzaltenango is the chilliest major city in Guatemala.

There are two main seasons in Quetzaltenango (as in all of Guatemala); the rainy season, which generally runs from late May through late October, and the dry season, which runs from early November until April. During the rainy season, rain falls consistently, usually in the afternoons, but there are occasions in which it rains all day long or at least during the morning. During the dry season, the city frequently will not receive a single drop of rain for months on end.

Coldest months are November through February, with minimum temperatures averaging 4 °C, and Maximum temperatures averaging 22 °C.

Warmest months are March through July, with minimum temperatures averaging 8 °C and Maximum temperatures averaging 23 °C.

Yearly, average low is 6 °C, and average high is 22 °C.

Below, is a chart for better comprehension.

Climate data for Quetzaltenango - Labor Ovalle Weather Station (Temp.: 19912010 / Prec.: 19802010
Record high °C (°F)28.4
Average high °C (°F)22.0
Daily mean °C (°F)12.9
Average low °C (°F)2.3
Record low °C (°F)−11.5
Average rainfall mm (inches)1.8
Average rainy days (≥ 0.1 mm)
Average relative humidity (%)65.763.164.568.474.579.474.576.181.279.372.768.672.3
Mean monthly sunshine hours 249.6240.3249.3212.8167.1142.3185.3187.5135.6156.9199.2228.72,354.6
Source: Instituto Nacional de Sismologia, Vulcanologia, Meteorologia, e Hidrologia [5]


Historically, the city produced wheat, maize, fruits, and vegetables. It also had a healthy livestock industry. Livestock was exported throughout the country and to El Salvador. As of 1850, wheat was the largest export, followed by cacao, sugar, wool and cotton. [2]


Quetzaltenango is home to the Club Xelajú MC soccer team. The team competes at Estadio Mario Camposeco which has a capacity of 13,500 and is the most successful non-capital team in the Liga Nacional de Fútbol de Guatemala. [6] It is also home to a rugby team in the newly formed Guatemalan rugby union and has enjoyed moderate success in the competition.

Due to the city's high altitude many athletes have prepared themselves here such as Olympic silver medalist Erick Barrondo and the 2004 Cuban volleyball team.

The swimming team has enjoyed success in national and international events.

Quetzaltenango withdrew from hosting the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games. It planned to build a 30,000 seat stadium by 2016, as well seven new facilities for indoor sports and aquatics. [7]


The Cuatro Caminos intersection outside the city. Cuatro Caminos Guatemala.JPG
The Cuatro Caminos intersection outside the city.

The city has a system of micro-buses for quick and cheap movement. A micro-bus is essentially a large van stuffed with seats. Micro-buses are numbered based on the route they take (e.g., "ruta 7"). There is no government-run mass transport system in the city. The sole public means of transport is the bus or micro-buses. Transportation to other cities is provided by bus. Bicycling is a way to get around and to travel to (and in) rural areas. Quetzaltenango Airport provides air service to the city.


The Inter-American School is an American school for the children of Christian missionaries.

People born in Quetzaltenango

Consular representations

International relations

Twin towns – Sister cities

Quetzaltenango is twinned with:

See also

Related Research Articles

Guatemala City City in Guatemala, Guatemala

Guatemala City, locally known as Guatemala or Guate, officially Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, is the capital and largest city of Guatemala, and the most populous in Central America. The city is located in the south-central part of the country, nestled in a mountain valley called Valle de la Ermita. It is estimated that its population is about 1 million. Guatemala City is also the capital of the Municipality of Guatemala and of the Guatemala Department.

Kʼicheʼ are indigenous peoples of the Americas and are one of the Maya peoples. The Kʼicheʼ language is a Mesoamerican language in the Mayan language family. The highland Kʼicheʼ states in the pre-Columbian era are associated with the ancient Maya civilization, and reached the peak of their power and influence during the Mayan Postclassic period. The meaning of the word Kʼicheʼ is "many trees". The Nahuatl translation, Cuauhtēmallān "Place of the Many Trees (People)", is the origin of the word Guatemala. Quiché Department is also named for them. Rigoberta Menchú, an activist for indigenous rights who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, is perhaps the best-known Kʼicheʼ.

Los Altos (state) former country

Los Altos was the sixth state of the Federal Republic of Central America, and a short-lived independent republic. Its capital was Quetzaltenango. Los Altos occupied eight departments in the west of present-day Guatemala as well as the Soconusco region in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

Club Xelajú MC association football club

Club Social y Deportivo Xelajú Mario Camposeco, commonly known as Xelajú MC or just Xela and nicknamed Superchivos is a Guatemalan football club competing in the Liga Nacional, the country's top footballing division. They are located in Quetzaltenango, Department of Quetzaltenango, and play their home matches in the Estadio Mario Camposeco. They are the most successful team not based in the capital city in the history of the league.

Luna de Xelajú is a very popular Guatemalan waltz composed by Paco Pérez in 1944.

Mam people Ethnicity in Central America

The Mam are an indigenous people in the western highlands of Guatemala and in south-western Mexico who speak the Mam language.

Carlos Vinicio Quiñónez Sánchez, nicknamed El Buga, is a Guatemalan football midfielder who last played for local club Deportivo Petapa in the Guatemala's top division.

Quetzaltenango Airport airport in Guatemala

Los Altos Airport, also known as Quetzaltenango Airport, serves the city of Quetzaltenango, also known as "Xelajú" or "Xela," and western Guatemala. It is operated and administrated by Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil de Guatemala (DGAC).

El Salvador national rugby union team

The El Salvador national rugby union team, nicknamed Los Torogoces, represents El Salvador in rugby union. They had their first international tournament in 2011 in Costa Rica along the other teams from Central America, winning the Silver Cup.

Rugby union in Guatemala is a minor, but growing sport.

Fernando Arturo Patterson Castro is a retired Costa Rican football goalkeeper who finished his career at Xelajú in Guatemala's top division.

Football is the most popular sports in Guatemala and is run by the Federación Nacional de Fútbol de Guatemala. The association administers the national football team, as well as the Liga Nacional de Fútbol de Guatemala.

Mario Camposeco Guatemalan footballer

Mario Salvador Camposeco López was a Guatemalan footballer.

2018 Central American and Caribbean Games

The 23rd Central American and Caribbean Games were held in Barranquilla, Colombia.

Mariano Rivera Paz Guatemalan statesman; 1st President of Guatemala

Mariano Rivera Paz was Head of State of Guatemala and its first president.

2012 Guatemala earthquake 7.4 Mw earthquake

The 2012 Guatemala earthquake occurred on November 7 at 10:35:45 local time. The shock had a moment magnitude of 7.4 and a maximum Mercalli Intensity of VII. The epicenter was located in the Pacific Ocean, 35 kilometres (22 mi) south of Champerico in the department of Retalhuleu. The region is one of many earthquakes, where the Cocos Plate is being subducted along the Middle America Trench beneath the North American and the Caribbean Plates, near their triple junction.

The 2006 Central American Junior and Youth Championships in Athletics were held at the Estadio Cementos Progreso in Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala, between May 11–13, 2006. Organized by the Central American Isthmus Athletic Confederation (CADICA), it was the 19th edition of the Junior (U-20) and the 14th edition of the Youth (U-18) competition. A total of 80 events were contested, 41 by boys and 39 by girls. Overall winner on points was  Guatemala.

Quetzaltenango Cathedral Church in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

The Holy Spirit Cathedral also called Quetzaltenango Cathedral, is a Catholic church in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. It was founded by the conquistadors, shortly after having defeated the legendary local hero Tecun Uman. The city was dedicated by the Spanish in the Holy Spirit.


  1. About Quetzaltenango, Xelaju
  2. 1 2 Baily, John (1850). Central America; Describing Each of the States of Guatemala, Honduras, Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. London: Trelawney Saunders. pp. 84–85.
  3. "GuateLog - Historia de Quetzaltenango". Archived from the original on 2012-04-26. Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  4. notisistema.com; Ciudad guatemalteca, candidata para Juegos Centroamericanos y del Caribe 2018.
  5. "Ministerio de comunicaciones Infraestructura y Vivienda". August 2011. Archived from the original on 2012-03-21. Retrieved 2011-08-04.
  6. mixelajumc.com
  7. noticias.emisorasunidas.com Archived 2012-03-23 at the Wayback Machine ; Xela presenta candidatura para realizar Juegos Centroamericanos y del Caribe 2018. Radio Emisoras Unidas - en línea desde Guatemala.
  8. https://web.archive.org/web/20071108234043/http://www.comunidades.gob.sv/comunidades/comunidades.nsf/pages/CenANoti9-06-181203
  9. http://www.embajada-consulado.com/consulados-de-italia_en_guatemala.html
  10. http://www.sre.gob.mx/quetzaltenango
  11. https://web.archive.org/web/20080617110652/http://www.lexureditorial.com/boe/0710/18083.htm
  12. Pessotto, Lorenzo. "International Affairs - Twinnings and Agreements". International Affairs Service in cooperation with Servizio Telematico Pubblico. City of Torino. Archived from the original on 2013-06-18. Retrieved 2013-08-06.

Coordinates: 14°50′N91°31′W / 14.833°N 91.517°W / 14.833; -91.517